By: Julie Ellett (Estimated reading time: 5 minutes)
Parenting for me has been a series of blips of sweet memories, being in the thick of challenges, seeing my kiddos fail/triumph/transform/laugh…repeat, repeat, repeat. The days as a parent of a young child were so. very. long. As I reflect on that now, I see that the years were fairly short. I think back to when I held my twin babies in my arms for the first time and was filled with overwhelm. This overwhelm spanned from blissful adoration to utter panic.
Fast forward 10 years as my people hit puberty, and there it was again, a hint of the overwhelm continuum. Seeing my kiddos as they were faced with new challenges and all of the hormones — SO many hormones — gave me pause. Who were these new people? What in the world all of a sudden? I breathed, squeezed them, and reverted back to some toddler techniques meant to help them handle all of the big feelings.
Jump another 6 years ahead and at times I feel as out of my depth as I was as a parent of a newborn. There’s just so much growth as a teenager in amazing and brutal ways. There seem to be so many elements in these teenage years I never contended with. I’m always thinking back to whether my parents faced these same challenges in me. Honestly, their parenting was completely different than the parenting path I’ve chosen.
We parents have the absolute privilege of being the stabilizing force as our people begin to explore the world and figure themselves out. Though I’ve professionally worked with adolescents in various settings (schools, hospitals, institutions), this precarious and precious time of development in adolescence didn’t truly hit home for me until I saw my own children enter this phase.
As caregivers, we are the backbone for providing the boundaried space within which these explorers can start making some decisions and taking (appropriate) risks. Because of the phase of life they are in, these decisions often have real consequences. This means watching our children be challenged or struggling and having the fortitude and patience to be the comfort that they need1. This comfort may look quite different than what this child wanted from you at a younger age. Nevertheless, they’re still yearning to be seen and heard by their parents and to have a hand in the beginning to steer their own path in life.
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The measured presence it takes as a parent during this phase is truly profound. We are often the pillar that they push against and the ones with whom they audition various roles and interactions. This means we parents are continually digging way down deep in our own wells in an attempt to maintain an Authoritative parenting stance that embodies both nurturing and support, balanced with firm limits and boundaries. Researchers continue to point back to the Authoritative parenting approach as the most successful process because of the hugely positive outcomes seen in the youth whose families took this approach: independence, self-reliance, social acceptance, academic success, and even greater life satisfaction as they age2. Of course, we all want this for our adolescents, and yet we know that this is (at times) a wonderful and (at times) weary period.
Hearing about the development of a parent peer-support program within the Program for Early Parent Support (PEPS) that is specific to parents of adolescents and teens made my heart jump. We’ve made it through the wilderness of babies, toddlers, and sweet, toothy kids, and are now facing the mysteries of the adolescent and teen years.
As a facilitator of the Program for Parents of Adolescents and Teens (PAT) Groups, I’ve been delighted to try and unpack ways parents can learn about tips and tricks in their parenting approach with their kiddos during these formative years. I’ve enjoyed witnessing parents turn inward to examine their own approaches and share their experiences. The beauty of this program is the intention behind it remains steadfast to the PEPS model of community support paired with age- and developmentally-appropriate resources that cover a vast span of topics related to adolescents.
Additionally, I’m so pleased to share that PEPS has made it a priority to hire professionals in the mental health field to facilitate these PAT Groups. Each of us, as a Group Leader, has been trained in adolescent development and psychology. Going this extra step allows these groups and their facilitators to process a well of research-driven information as we gather in a supportive and encouraging space.
In order to provide continual support for our adolescents and teens, we desperately need to cultivate connection and support for ourselves. It harkens back to the proverbial ‘put your oxygen mask on first’ scenario. The PAT Groups have been a real gem and seeing parents come together to share their own parenting experiences, and feel heard and fortified by their peers, is so gratifying. I’ve even seen members continue their connection after the group has ended. The best, though, has been seeing the lightbulb moment in parents’ eyes as we role-play ways to reframe thinking about teenage quips and then hear them report back on how trying out these skills with their own kiddos has worked.
Please (hop, sprint, claw your way over to) take a look at this tremendous offering that PEPS has begun and get connected with the parents of adolescents and teens program today.
1 – Pinquart, M. & Gerke, D. C. (2019). Associations of parenting styles with self-esteem in children and adolescents: A meta-analysis. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 28. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10826-019-01417-5
2 – Lavric, M. & Naterer, A. (2020). The power of authoritative parenting: A cross-national study of effects of exposure to different parenting styles on life satisfaction. Children and Youth Services Review, 116. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.childyouth.2020.105274